Why Christians Need Confessions, Part 8
Why do Christians need creeds and confessions? “6. A further argument in favor of Creeds and Confessions, may be drawn from the remarkable fact, that their most zealous opposers have generally been latitudinarians* and heretics.” (Samuel Miller, The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions; an 1824 address to the students of Princeton Seminary.)
Miller argues that most of the time is it not those who are orthodox in their doctrine who oppose Creeds and Confessions, but those promoting some form of heresy. This is not a blanket statement. In Miller’s day he said there were some rare examples of people who may be orthodox opposing Creeds and Confessions, but that you will not find that at as you look back to the ancient Church.
“…the most ardent and noisy opponents of Creeds have been those who held corrupt opinions;” (Miller) He points out one of the most guilty groups in his day being the Unitarians. “From those, then, who have either far departed, or at least begun to depart, from “the faith once delivered to the saints,” almost exclusively, do we hear of the “oppression,” and the “mischief” of Creeds and Confessions.” (Miller) In other words, many who oppose them protest too much. One instance from the day in which Miller wrote comes to my memory regarding the group of churches I came from prior to becoming Reformed. I had always thought that Barton Stone left the Presbyterian Church and disliked the Westminster Confession of Faith because of those doctrines of grace that we speak of in the T.U.L.I.P acronym. We know there are many today who profess Christ who may be Arminian in their doctrine regarding salvation. I made some assumptions that this was the case with Stone. However, looking into his own writings when he left the Presbyterian Church in the 1820’s I found out it was because he rejected the doctrine of the Trinity. This is where the following quote from Miller strikes home, “men are seldom found opposed to Creeds, until Creeds have become opposed to them.”
If you ever have any doctrinal concerns as you read through our secondary standards (The Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) please feel free to discuss them with myself or any member of the session.
Definition from above: *Latitudinarians, or latitude men were initially a group of 17th-century English theologians – clerics and academics – from the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England who were moderate Anglicans (members of the Church of England, which was protestant). In particular, they believed that conforming and adhering to very specific doctrines, liturgical practices and church organizational forms, as did the Puritans was not necessary, and could be harmful: “The sense that one had special instructions from God made individuals less amenable to moderation and compromise, or to reason itself.” Thus, the latitudinarians supported a broad-based protestantism; they were later referred to as Broad Church (see also Inclusivism).